The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I., ed. by J. Williams Ab Ithel, , at sacred-texts.com
INASMUCH as Llywelyn Sion of Llangewydd was the person, by whom principally the present Collection of Bardism was made, the following brief Memoir of him may not be out of place here, or unacceptable to our readers.
He was born in the early part of the 16th century, and became at the usual age one of the disciples of Thomas Llywelyn of Rhegoes, and of Meurig Davydd of Llanisan, both eminent Bards of the Glamorgan Chair--the latter having presided in it A.D. 1560. His numerous compositions show him to be a poet of vigorous and lofty thoughts, which he, moreover, clothed in pure, correct, and elegant language. According to Taliesin Williams, who professes to derive his information from ancient manuscripts, he was also an antiquary of great research and ability.
Sion Bradford describes him as a man well to do in the world, accumulating wealth by the sale of transcripts of manuscripts, both poetic and prosaic, by which means also he obtained great respect among all classes of people. From the Cywyddau, that passed between him and Sion Mowddwy, it would appear that he held a subordinate office--that of crier--in the law court of Glamorgan. This
position brought him into contact with many of the gentry and men of influence in the country, who invited him to their houses, and, by allowing him access to their libraries, afforded him facilities of gratifying the literary bent of his mind. He was in particular acquainted with Sir Edward Mansell, who, about 1591, wrote an excellent "account of the conquest of Glamorgan." Sir Edward speaks of him under the name of "Lewelyn John," as a painstaking and respectable writer. It would appear that Sir Edward himself was a diligent collector of old Welsh MSS. According to Sion Bradford, he was also in much esteem at Rhaglan Castle; he says that it was from thence that he copied most of his writings, Sir William Herbert having made there a collection of the most valuable Welsh MSS., which were afterwards ruthlessly destroyed by fire in the time of Oliver Cromwell. Indeed, Llywelyn Sion himself, at p. 224 of the 1st volume of this work, confesses as much, and expresses his unbounded obligation to "the lord William Herbert, earl of Pembroke," for giving him permission to make extracts from ancient and rare Books in the Castle of Rhaglan.
He presided in the Chair of Glamorgan A.D. 1580, and it was then that his arrangement received the sanction of Gorsedd. His "Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain," which formed a part of his Collection, is beyond question an excellent and invaluable treatise on Welsh versification, and one which ought to be widely known beyond the limits of the Principality. Indeed, a New Edition, with a translation, of this work, would form a very appropriate sequel to BARDISM.
Sion Bradford says that he was an excellent teacher to many of the poets of his time, as well as to other Welsh literati. It would seem from some Englynion, which he composed, that, when far advanced in years, he gave his Books to his young disciple Edward Davydd of Margam. At the end of one of his collections, entitled "Llyfr Hir Llanharan," is written, "Fy llaw i, Llywelyn Sion, o Langewydd,
hyd ymma, Tach. y 27. 1613;" after which follows the handwriting of Edward Davydd.
According to Watkin Powell, he composed a Book, which he designated, "Atgofion Gwybodau yr Hen Gymry," being a treatise on the poetry, genealogy, memorials, medicine, agriculture, law, handicraft, and chemistry of the Ancient Cymry. This he sent to London to be printed, but meanwhile the author died, and the Book was lost. According to one authority, his death took place in 1615, but two other documents place it respectively in 1616 and 1617, when he had attained the venerable age of about 100.